I’ve waffled at times on my decision to add her other maternal great-grandparents to my new novel, What’s Left. It was already a big book with a big story when their role expanded, even as I was repeatedly pondering what else could be eliminated without detracting from the whole.

One bold quick cut would take Ilias and Maria out altogether. The story line would be tighter if Bella’s parents had simply rejected her when she tells them she’s marrying into Cassia’s family. But Ilias the Cypriot Greek and his wife, the Cuban-born Maria, insist on inserting their own spicy ingredients to the stew.

For one thing, they strengthen Bella’s emerging role as the family matriarch. For another, they loosen the symmetry of the brothers/brothers-in-law and sisters/sisters-in-law at the helm of the family restaurant that had hired Bella at the outset of the war years. And, my, how they dote on her baby Dimitri and then his brothers and sisters as they come along.

Their embellishments add humanity and warmth. And so they move in – and stay.


I’ve become a big believer in adopting people into the family – one’s who aren’t blood relations but belong all the same. Is that something you, too, do?

Who is your favorite family member? What makes that person special? How do you think that individual sees you in return?


This was one of my favorite places when it came to “ordering out” food at the office. I usually got the souvlaki, even though the menu had other tempting options. (Manchester, New Hampshire.)

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